Toyota Is Tops in Brand Loyalty and Brand Perception

Ford (F) may have swept the NACOTY awards, and Hyundai may be riding a wave of great press in the U.S., but the American public still views Toyota (TM) as the best brand — and they’re more loyal to it than to any other. For the third year in a row, Toyota has taken the #1 spot on Consumer Reports’ annual Brand Perception survey. The survey asks consumers to evaluate brands in seven areas: safety, quality, value, performance, design/style, technology/innovation, and whether the brand is environmentally friendly/green. Given the success of well-designed, high-tech hybrids like the 2010 Prius, Toyota’s win isn’t very surprising — though with other stylish green models heading toward showrooms, the company will have to up its game to remain at the top of the heap. Also faring well on Consumer Reports’ survey were Ford (#2), Honda (HMC) (#3), and Chevrolet (#4). At the bottom: HUMMER, which came in dead last, just below the three-way tie of Saab, Mercury, and Mazda. [Read the full article]

Some Mississippi legislators are becoming impatient about the interest payments Toyota Motor Corp. is expected to make on money the state borrowed to bring a $1 billion car plant in Blue Springs.

State Treasurer Tate Reeves told lawmakers during a fiscal briefing at the Capitol on Thursday that discussions are ongoing about when the automaker would begin making payments. So far, he said, the state has paid about $16.7 million in interest.

Barbara McDaniel, spokeswoman for external affairs manager for Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, said the company had agreed to begin paying interest on the loans in April.

She said that agreement was reached with state officials after the company announced in December 2008 that it would suspend preparations for the plant near the Tennessee border because of the recession. [Read the full article]

CEO Winterkorn greets the press at VW’s Wolfsburg headquarters last year Joern Pollex/Getty Images

Editor’s note: The original version of this story said Volkswagen sold 35,000 Passats in 2009. The company sold 11,000.

When Volkswagen (VOW:GR) CEO Martin Winterkorn said two years ago that he was determined to zoom past Toyota (TM) to become the world’s biggest automaker, the notion seemed laughable. At the time, the German automaker sold 3 million fewer vehicles than Toyota, was losing ground in the U.S., and had a reputation for iffy quality. Toyota, then set to pass General Motors as the best-selling carmaker on the planet, seemed unassailable.

Today Toyota is vulnerable, and Winterkorn’s ambitions seem a lot less outlandish. In November, for the first time, VW built more cars than its Japanese rival. Toyota still sells more each year, but VW has closed the gap to less than 1.5 million cars. [Read the full article]

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